Biophilic design is not only about how interiors look.
With their ambitious objective of improving wellbeing while connecting people with nature, biophilic interiors also aim at recreating the positive feelings of a natural environment.
It is no surprise that nature is filled with risky situations and environments, but can we call it a positive feeling? And even so, how does this fit in interior design?
Well, actually risk design features are among the most Instagrammable of all and sit on top of our Pinterest boards.
The question is: why is it so?
This is what inspired the Biophilic Moodboard of this month. So let’s dive into the fascinating relationship between risk and interior design.
Risk in biophilic design
In order to fully support our wellbeing, interiors need to be either relaxing or stimulating according to the situation.
If a bathroom or a cozy corner call for a soothing ambiance, a stimulating environment will be much more appropriate when creativity is required (like in office design) or to create a compelling interior.
This is exactly where risk features come into play and why biophilic design uses them (among the rest) to make an atmosphere intriguing and inspiring.
But not just any type of risk will work…
How does risk benefit our wellbeing?
Risk is a broad concept and what is in scope in biophilic design is the balanced combination of perceived risk with the rational knowledge of safety. In practice, it refers to situations that feel risky while being practically safe.
Such feelings of apparent risk have been connected with dopamine release in our brain *. And a short dose of dopamine can stimulate motivation, memory and problem solving, all precious assets when trying to be creative!
On top of this, risk design features are among the most spectacular ones. They leave us surprised and amazed and totally achieve what we would normally call the wow factor!
Risk in interior design
How to introduce risk in interiors?
There exist several ways of doing that. Essentially, it all boils down to playing with shapes, materials and perspectives to create the perception of risk while actually keeping everything safe and sound.
One of my favourite examples is infinity pools. Despite being practically safe, they make me slightly shiver every time I see one! On the same note, pools with a glass bottom are also very effective in conveying a sense of potential risk.
In fact, clear glass is generally a friend when creating a risk feature; it makes things visually disappear creating that sense of perceived risk while being structurally sound. Examples go from a more common glass staircase banister to "riskier" glass floors and glass furniture legs.
Full-height windows are also a favourite feature in a biophilic design. Besides creating a sense of risk (especially when located on higher floors), they “break the box” and connect the interior with the outdoor space in a seamless way.
Suspended features are also great to add an element of risk in interiors as they give the sensation of instability.
Other seemingly unstable examples are cantilevered features like floating mezzanines, staircases or even entire rooms!
Playing safe with risk
Risk features are clearly not suitable for all situations nor for everybody. But there is one instance of risk that is less extreme yet equally impressive: the risk of getting wet.
A good example of it would be a floating pathway across a water pond.
Or also, would you say that falling right into the water from a hammock is enough of a risk? Well, the answer is going to be highly personal. But for sure I would not complain if I had a similar feature in my home!
- Kohno, M., Ghahremani D.G., Morales A.M., Robertson C.L., Ishibashi K., Morgan A.T., Mandelkern M.A., London E.D.(2013). Risk-Taking Behavior: Dopamine D2/D3 Receptors, Feedback, and Frontolimbic Activity. (opened in a new window/tab) Cerebral Cortex, 2015 Jan, 25(1): 236–245.
- Wang, D.V., Tsien J.Z. (2011). Convergent Processing of Both Positive and Negative Motivational Signals by the VTA Dopamine Neuronal Populations. (opened in a new window/tab) PLoS ONE 6(2), 2011; 6(2): e17047
- Zald, D.H., R.L. Cowan, P. Riccardi, R.M. Baldwin, M.S. Ansari, R. Li, E.S. Shelby, C.E. Smith, M. McHugo, & R.M. Kessler (2008). Midbrain Dopamine Receptor Availability Is Inversely Associated with Novelty-Seeking Traits in Humans. (opened in a new window/tab) The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 December 2008, 28(53): 14372-14378.